View Original

JAPAN: Mt. Aso Volcano

Kyushu is the southernmost region and island in the main islands of Japan.  In January of this year we easily traveled to Kyushu by train using the unlimited rail pass, initially to visit the town of Beppu in Northern Kyushu to see the hot springs.  Once I started to do research on other things to do and see in Kyushu, I wanted to spend a lot more time there.  The rail system in Japan is incredible, especially for traveling to and within cities and towns, but some of the places that I wanted to see in Kyushu were off the path of the trains, and rather than figure out and be limited by the schedules of buses, we went ahead and rented a car in Beppu.  I love renting cars abroad, especially in countries with right hand drive cars where you drive on the left side of the road (the opposite of how we drive in the U.S.).  One note if you plan to rent a car in Japan: be sure to get an international drivers license before you leave your home country, Japan requires one to rent a car (and even to rent a go-kart).  I picked one up in just a few minutes minutes from AAA Auto Club for $15.

Once we rented a car in Beppu, we headed to Mt. Aso with a very open itinerary.  The two hour drive to Mt. Aso brought us the the beautiful Japanese countryside where we then started the uphill drive to the top of the volcano.  As we gained elevation the outside air temperature drastically dropped to freezing, and we began to see snow and frost on the ground. 

When we reached the top of the mountain there was an overlook from where we could see steam rising from the volcano in the distance.  I asked at the visitor center if I could fly my drone within the park and they gave me full permission.  I brought Furby the drone out to fly and experienced the bitterest cold I have ever operated my drone in.  The drone flew fine, however I was having a difficult time with my phone's battery depleting quickly, and at the end of the first flight my fingers were burning from the cold. 

Mt. Aso is currently so active that the ropeway to the top of the volcano was closed (when open you can ride the tram to the edge of the caldera and peek into the volcano).  

That evening we hadn't planned where we would stay, but I was able to find a cute guesthouse for the night called Sanrinsha.  I use TripAdvisor and AirBnb to find accomodations when I travel, but I found Booking.com to be the easiest to use when I was booking on the go in Japan.  The guesthouse was very cozy with heated floors and a private onsen (Japanese bath house).  The owner was very helpful with giving us suggestions about where to eat dinner and places to see in our time in Kyushu.

The jolly (and stylish) owner of Sanrisha guest house

The guesthouse owner recommended we have dinner down the road at a restaurant called Bluegrass that serves locally raised, grass-fed beef.

In the morning when leaving the guesthouse we came across a scenic park and a herd of friendly white goats.  We couldn't help but get out and play with the goats.


Next destination on our Kyushu roadtrip: Takachiho gorge.